How Mother’s Day Made Me Appreciate Carlos Delgado and Bill Hall

Originally Posted on the Previous Iteration of Baseball.FYI by Sheryl Ring

Mother’s Day is always a day of mixed feelings for me. On the one hand, there are so many people whose mothers have provided them with nurturing, love, and life. On the other hand, as a queer person, I have a more fraught relationship with the holiday, as so many of us do. Far too few of us have mothers who even accept us, let alone love us. How do you honor the memory of a mother who never did honor you?

I’ve written in these pages and elsewhere about my childhood – about my mother and how my transness served as a wedge which ultimately destroyed not only my relationship with her, but also with my entire family. But mother’s day is difficult for me for another reason as well. It’s hard for any woman to accept that she can’t have biological children, and being a trans woman is no exception to that rule. So for a lot of reasons, mother’s day is at best bittersweet and at worst mourning. I long for what I never had: a loving mother, and the chance to be a loving mother.

Somehow, mother’s day baseball always made me feel better. But there was one team I could never watch on mother’s day: the Mets, my mother’s favorite team.

My mother wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but she did love the Metropolitans. My mother’s fandom had limits, though; it was secondary to her bigotry. When the Mets dealt for first baseman Carlos Delgado, who had famously and courageously protested the Iraq War in 2004 by refusing to stand for God Bless America during the seventh inning, my mother vowed not to watch the Mets until they traded him away, and she would call him various slurs when Sean Hannity would talk about him on Fox News. Even when the Mets made the playoffs in 2006, she would root against Delgado. Unable to distinguish Delgado from the other players of color on the Mets, she would keep me around during the games just to ask me whether the next hitter was Delgado, just so she could hurl invective at the television. When Delgado won the 2006 Roberto Clemente award for his longstanding peace activism, my mother said she was glad the Mets lost to the Cardinals because they employed him.

Over the years, I began to associate the Mets with my mother and her bigotry, and so I grew to despise them. On one hand, it wasn’t really fair to the Mets; after all, they never knew my mother. In fact, what Carlos Delgado did was actually incredibly brave. Geoff Baker wrote a few years ago that Delgado wasn’t just protesting the war in Iraq; he was also bringing attention to the Navy test-bombing his home with depleted uranium shells.

For Delgado, the patriotic backlash flared up less than three years after 9/11. The story of his sitdown broke as he was in his native Puerto Rico with the Blue Jays on July 4 weekend to play a neutral-site series against the Montreal Expos. Delgado had helped fund activists on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques who had successfully campaigned to have a U.S. Navy base there removed the previous year. The Navy had done test bombing for decades on Vieques, including uranium-depleted shells used in the 16-month-old Iraq conflict. Vieques residents had long claimed the test munitions caused higher-than-usual rates of cancer and other illnesses on the island. I had written in 2001 about Delgado’s work in Vieques and wanted to know his 2004 feelings about the Navy’s pullout. That’s when he told me about his protest silently waged for over a year. “I never stay outside for ‘God Bless America,’ ” Delgado said. “I actually don’t think people have noticed it. I don’t (stand) because I don’t believe it’s right. I don’t believe in the war.’’

Delgado kept up his protest for two different teams – the Blue Jays and Marlins. Fans objected to his protest so vociferously that then-commissioner Bud Selig became involved. The Mets refused to allow Delgado to continue his protest after the Marlins traded him to New York, however. As team owner and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said at the time, “[Delgado]’s going to have his own political views, which he’s going to keep to himself.” I guess the Mets knew what kind of person rooted for them after all?

In any event, to this day, I still don’t like the Mets. I don’t like them because my mother loved them. I don’t like them for what they did to Carlos Delgado. And so, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bill Hall, author of the greatest mother’s day home run of all time.